Anybody knows a good tool to create manuals?

I am looking for a tool/application to create and distribute electronic technical manuals.
It should have features like search based on "soft questions" ("how do I
change the component so-and-so?" etc.)
It must be possible to incorporate pictures and drawings from e.g. SolidWorks.
The manual should be accessible on e.g. an intranet.
Any suggestions?
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snipped-for-privacy@swnewsnomail.com says...

John,
Give http://www.immersivedesign.com a look... very cool product with many possibilities.
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Definitely the best available.
..
VFR wrote:

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To distribute your manuals print them to .PDF (.PDF seems to be a standard for electronic manual distribution, that's my observation anyway. It works well across platforms and AcrobatReader is free to all.) I think a utility that comes with SW 2004 (BlueBeam?) will allow you to print them from other apps I am not sure though. Otherwise Adobe PageMaker comes with this capability. It is a great program if you have the time to learn it. ( I hated it at first but it's grown on me)
Corey Scheich

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Use Adobe Acrobat (PDF format). It's free and very popular...........

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Hi John,
We use Mocrosoft Word & then output to PDF.
Word is actually a pretty good "container" to put most things into - accepts most items as a visible object, including solidworks, acad, jpg, whatever and has the ability to annotate over the object with Word objects (lie callouts). Its searchable, has table & link creation abilities, converts to html with ease (hence searcable), and most of all not too expensive or hard to learn.
PDF works even better for stability and easy distribution, but a source doc is needed to create the PDF (word for us).
For what it's worth - I like these two together because they are stable, reliable, inexpensive and likely to be around in 10 years. I'm sure there are better products and taken point by point, both of these might easily be laughed at.
Regards,
SMA
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SMA, Thanks for the tip, I had never thought to insert a part file into MS Word. You can "edit the part object", rotate the view, etc. Then annotate it. Very cool!
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Yeah, and then you can distribute your 25 megabyte Word document (check your file size).
'Spork'
Denny Trimble wrote:

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Yeah, I caught that detail, but PDF'ing things is automatic for me these days.
MS word is quite good at blowing up a 120k JPG into a 1MB .doc.
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Hi Denny,
This is probably academic (possibly widely known), but still worth mentioning.
If one finds the file size is objetionable (it is to me sometimes too) then the files can be "linked" instead of "embedded". This keeps the size down and to my knowledge does not hinder distribution.
The only drawback of the linked files is that they inveraible get lost after a while through mis-management. Nothing hurts more than not being able to edit. Unfortunately, you wither have mega-bloat or the need to manage external files.
My favorite is when an image is inserted as an object instead of a picture. Talk about mega-files, all for the same image.
I too have fallen in love with the PDF's ability to compress the heck out of anything. We did a litle study here and found that it compressed (cad) things down to about 10 to 20 percent of the original size depending on the original content, dpi output etc (cad drawings - SW & autocad, sometimes with images tacked onto the cad). This made PDF a reasonable alternative to the SW viewer, especially to our vendors.
In any case - take care.
SMA
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Hi SMA
Yeah - I imagined this to be a reasonable solution - basically just taking the existing word-written manuals and print them to .pdf.
Having thought about it now, I guess I am looking for the tool used for "help" in MSWord itself.... here your can ask questions like "how do I format a heading", and then relevant topics are suggested.
Does anybody know how that kind of help is made?
John

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Hi John,
I think what we are talking about is a CHM file.
I know you need a compiler to make them, but which one to use, I woudl not know.
If you do a websearch on "CHM complier" this should reaveal many options.
Regards-
SMA
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MS Word tends to explode documents to unbelievable sizes and for manuals it is a pretty crappy solution. Formatting and object placement in Word has been completely undesirable for us to say the least.
We write our manuals using Adobe InDesign and export (from the SolidWorks drawing or photoworks rendered) the necessary views as high-res TIF files, then convert to PNG to reduce file size and to maintain alpha-blending capabilities. When the document is finished, we export it to a high-res PDF and send to the printer or distribute to customers.
This is a very good combination of applications. With InDesign, there is much better control over your documents (image and text control) than in Word and the end result is of much higher quality.
Also, you can package the complete document (images, fnts, etc) to output to the printer when needed.
DS
John wrote:

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MS has a free compiler for CHM, but better idea is to use something like Microsoft HTML Help Workshop for example, it does the whole job. These are free, but there are much better commercial softwares available..mentioned softwares aren't that great, just simple tools..
I made some CHM's about a year ago and used free/shareware program but I can't remember it's name, it was used together with MS CHM compiler and it worked well..I'll tell you if I found it.
regards Markku

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that didn't take long time at all :-)
http://www.helpware.net/FAR/aboutfar/aboutfar.htm
and another one totally free
http://www.danish-shareware.dk/soft/shelpm /
I used FAR..
regards Markku

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